LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Twenty horses stampeding toward the first turn in a battle for position. A screaming crowd of 150,000 and a fast track.

It’s the 150th Kentucky Derby. Beyond a couple early wagering favorites, it’s a wide-open race.

Post time is 6:57 p.m. EDT Saturday. Gloomy skies and occasional rain drops have given way to blue skies and sunshine. The dirt surface was upgraded to fast a couple hours before the race after being muddy to start the day’s card.

Stylishly dressed fans in colorful outfits and large hats with plumage are seeking shelter from the sun amid high humidity. They’re sipping mint juleps in souvenir glasses, smoking cigars and eating strawberries on a stick.

The threat of wet weather dissipated as the day went on. Fierceness was holding as the 7-2 favorite, followed by Sierra Leone at 5-1. Forever Young, from Japan, was at 6-1, followed by Catching Freedom at 8-1 and Just a Touch at 10-1.

The Derby will answer the perennial question of which 3-year-old can best handle running 1 1/4 miles in front of the biggest crowd they will ever see and hear.

Fierceness and jockey John Velazquez will break from the No. 17 post, which has never produced a derby winner.

The costliest colt in the 20-horse field is Sierra Leone at $2.3 million.

“A lot of times you buy an expensive horse like that and they can’t run,” said Peter Brandt, one of the six owners. “We’ve very, very lucky he’s made it this far. We’re looking forward to this race but also looking forward to the future of taking care of this horse.”

Conversely, Larry Demeritte shelled out just $11,000 to buy Saratoga West. The 74-year-old Bahamas native has won 180 races and nearly $5 million in purse money since he started training in 1984. Demeritte is just the second Black trainer since 1951 to saddle a horse for the derby.

“This is truly amazing how we got to this position with this horse,” he said.

The Kentucky Derby winner earns $3.1 million from the record purse of $5 million.

Forever Young is one of two entries from Japan. The other is T O Password. The country has never won the race.

This year’s race is one for the ages, too. D. Wayne Lukas, the 88-year-old trainer with four Kentucky Derby wins, saddles Just Steel. Frankie Dettori, the famed Italian jockey, is back to ride Society Man at age 53 after a 24-year absence.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddles Fierceness, is in the Kentucky Derby for the 24th year and it never gets old. He has won it twice.

“If anything, it just becomes more nerve-wracking,” he said.

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AP horse racing: https://apnews.com/hub/horse-racing